The Panthers fell 5-1 to Timber Creek Saturday morning in the FHSAA Class 9A State Semifinals.
FORT MYERS The magic finally ran out on Dr. Phillips' postseason run in the state semifinals.
The Panthers took on Timber Creek Saturday morning in the FHSAA Class 9A State Semifinals at Hammond Stadium and fell 5-1 to the defending champions.
Dr. Phillips (18-14) struck first but could not hold the lead, as the Wolves (22-7) scored five unanswered runs to advance to the state final.
"We've got a gritty group and the ball just didn't bounce our way," head coach Mike Bradley said. "We competed all game, at the mound and at the plate. ... It's been a great run."
The Panthers got on the board in the bottom of the fourth inning after Brandon Fields and August Haymaker earned walks to leadoff the at-bat. When a passed ball advanced the runners to second and third with no outs, Dr. Phillips seemed primed for a big inning.
Then, Will Sullivan grounded out to the first baseman, who stepped on the bag for the force out and then fired over to second base where Haymaker — who had been caught between bases — was tagged out. Fields scored during the exchange, but Bradley said afterward trading two outs for one run was less than ideal.
"We were happy to get on the board but just knew it wasn't going to be enough," Bradley said.
It was only a half-inning later, in the top of the fifth, when the Wolves' bats came alive and proved as much.
Timber Creek pushed across two runs in the fifth inning and three more in the sixth inning, creating a hole that was too deep.
Panthers starting pitcher Cort Roedig was pulled after allowing two runs, three hits and striking out four in 4 2/3 innings of work. Logan Bryan pitched the final out of the fifth inning and then the entire sixth inning, surrendering three runs (two earned) on three hits and an error, and Mitchell Stockwell pitched the seventh inning.
"Cort was battling his tail off all game — he threw a heck of a game," Bradley said.
At the plate, the frustration mounted for Dr. Phillips over the innings, as Panther hitters could not find the holes while trying to solve Timber Creek starting pitcher Bret Neilan. Neilan, who pitched a complete-game for the win, struck out just six Panthers, but got ground balls and pop outs seemingly every time he needed one.
"They made the plays defensively and you've got to tip your hats to them," Bradley said.
The game was originally scheduled to have taken place a day earlier, on 4 p.m. on Friday. Around 3 p.m. Friday the game before this one, a Class 8A State Semifinal between St. Thomas Aquinas and George Jenkins, entered a weather delay that lasted roughly five hours.
As a result, the game between the Panthers and Wolves was rescheduled to 9 a.m. this morning.
"It took a toll, but at the same time these guys are conditioned for that," Bradley said of waiting out the delays and having to play in the morning. "The guys all play travel baseball, so they've gotten up and played at eight in the morning."
The defeat ends a season of big ups — and downs — for Dr. Phillips. After starting the campaign with five consecutive wins, the Panthers lost 10 of 14 games — including five losses by one run. The team seemed to gel just in time for the district tournament, which it entered as the No. 5 seed.
Wins in the play-in round and the district semifinal that week in early May set the stage for a run through the regional playoffs.
"We went into the playoffs and people doubted us — but we didn't doubt each other," senior August Haymaker said. "We were ready to go."
Though the Panthers will lament some missed opportunities during their trip to the Final Four, the team and its coaches have the distinction of returning the program to a state semifinal for the first time since 1996 — something that is no small feat.
"I'm just extremely proud of all of my guys," Bradley said. "They competed to the very end."